The sky was the limit for Maryland after they started the season 13-0, including with the biggest win in team history against then second-ranked Wisconsin. Maryland proved they could compete against the country’s very best.
Although the Terps secured their most successful season in over a decade, subsequent matches proved that they still had a lot of work to do to be able to compete in the season-long slog that is the Big Ten.
Starting with a 3-0 loss to Minnesota, Maryland would only win six out of their next 18 matches.
The Terps’ last match of the season was against the same squad that first sent them in a downward spiral. However, this time around, Maryland had a few tricks up their sleeve. It was a packed house in the Xfinity Center Pavilion as Maryland celebrated six of their players on Senior Night.
The match was a perfect summary of Maryland’s season. They shot out of a cannon, able to compete tooth-and-nail against a tough opponent in the No. 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers. However, the team gradually deteriorated as the match went on. By the fourth set, the Terps were completely out of it, and Minnesota cruised to an easy 3-1 victory.
“That’s what really good teams can do,” said coach Adam Hughes. “If they can get you in one situation where they can get five or six points, it kind of puts [the game] out of hand.”
For the first set, the energy from the fans and the players could be felt. Maryland was able to compete just as hard as Minnesota. However, nearing the 25-point mark, the Gophers held a three-point lead. Maryland needed to act fast, and that was exactly what it did. The set ended with a Terps 6-2 run, and finished with a block from senior Rainelle Jones. Maryland won a competitive first set, 25-23.
This was Maryland’s first set win since the match against Northwestern, three matches ago.
The second set was almost exactly like the first. Again, it was a close battle between the two sides, and again the end score was 25-23. However, this time it was Minnesota who was able to squeak by, tying the match up at one set apiece.
Maryland started off the third set with an 18-14 lead, in prime position to steal another set. For the rest of the set, however, Minnesota outscored the Terps 11-2, providing the Gophers with a 2-1 set lead.
Minnesota’s hot streak continued in the fourth. Minnesota had complete control throughout the set. A late 5-1 run from Maryland created a more modest score difference, but there was no question who was going to win from the start. It might have been the night to celebrate Maryland’s seniors, but it was Minnesota’s senior Katie Myers who won the fourth set and the match.
As the ball hit the court for the last time, the regular season came to an official end. Although Maryland still was not able to compete for a Big Ten title, it was a season to be remembered. To coach Adam Hughes, 2021 was a step in the right direction. Maryland will look to bring a lot of their players back to compete next season.
“The core is hungry and humble,” said Hughes. “I guess the best way I can put it is [we’re] very thankful for what we were able to accomplish. [We] did a lot, but also [we’re] really hungry. They don’t want to have their season end in regular season play. They’d like to find a way to make the tournament.”